History was not on the side of Massachusetts when traveling to Alfond Arena for its quarterfinal series with No. 4 Maine. The Black Bears had won all 21 of its previous Hockey East postseason contests at their home rink, and the Minutemen had fallen in each of their 18 games all-time in Orono.
Then again, UMass coach Don Cahoon was never one for history.
When informed that UMass’ 5-3 victory over the Black Bears was Maine’s first conference postseason loss ever at home, Cahoon responded with surprise, “Oh, really?”
Freshman Stephen Jacobs chose an opportune time to score his first collegiate goal for the Minutemen, beating Maine’s Frank Doyle with a low shot from the right circle for the game-winner 1:54 into the third period. Jacobs’ goal came just 18 seconds after the Black Bears’ Gray Shaneberger had knotted the teams at three apiece.
“Tim Vitek made an unbelievable play along the boards,” Jacobs said. “I was just trying to get the puck on net, looking for a rebound.”
“That goal was critical because it gave us a life,” Cahoon said.
The two teams battled in an extremely physical third period, with plenty of hard hitting, and referee John Gravallese allowed them to play, calling only one penalty, a minor infraction on UMass in the final seconds of play.
Greg Mauldin added an empty netter for the Minutement. It was Maine’s first loss of any kind in the Hockey East quarterfinals since 1994.
Maine jumped out to the early 1-0 lead eight minutes into the game, as Martin Kariya parked himself right in front of the net on a five-on-three power play and blasted linemate Lucas Lawson’s feed past UMass goaltender Gabe Winer.
But the Minutemen responded with two goals less than two minutes apart to take the lead at the first intermission. Sophomore blueliner Dusty Demianiuk’s shot from the point deflected off a Maine defenseman and past starter Jimmy Howard to get UMass on the scoreboard. Matt Anderson followed up the goal with one of his own, as his backhander was stopped initially by Howard, but the puck found its way over his shoulder and into the back of the Maine net for the 2-1 UMass lead.
Howard was chased shortly after the second period began, as Peter Trovato lifted a shot over the freshman in front of the goal to put the Minutemen in control. But the Black Bears picked up their play at that point with Doyle in net. John Ronan scored his second goal of the season midway through the period, and Shaneberger lit the lamp in the early stages of the third period to even the score and set up Jacobs’ heroics.
Winer made 24 saves in his first collegiate playoff game.
“He demonstrated to me that he was pretty confident, that he looked like he was under control,” Cahoon said.
Howard and Doyle combined to make 22 saves in the losing effort.
The two teams will meet again Friday night at Alfond Arena for the second game of the series. Despite its 1-0 series lead, UMass isn’t getting ahead of itself, as it knows the Black Bears will be more than ready for tomorrow’s game.
“We’ve just got to put our best foot forward tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens afterwards,” Minutemen defenseman Thomas Pock said.